Sep 19, 2012 4:00am PDT
cast out. it'll be like the sunnis in iraq, who were cleaned out of every major government agency. >> over time, bashar al-assad was successful in convincing the majority of the alawites that his political survival is synonymous with their physical survival. and they have started seeing this fight in existential terms. >> it's very understandable why alawites would believe today that if they were to lose, they would lose more than the privileges that the regime has had. they would lose everything. >> narrator: the alawites' improbable rise to power in syria was set in motion by bashar's father, hafez al-assad. his path to power was through the military, which was dominated by alawites. a rising star in syria's socialist ba'ath party, at age 40, he engineered a coup to seize the presidency. >> hafez al-assad rose to power from the bottom up. he had to fight the battles that came with the coup d'états, that came with trying to corral the different forces of the country into his camp. >> he knew he had to gain support of the other minorities-- the druze, the christians, the shiites.